Campanile Chef Mark Peel serves up his latest seafood eatery in his hometown.

Before he was mentored by Wolfgang Puck, before he worked at such celebrated French restaurants as La Tour d’Argent and Le Moulin de Mougins and before he cofounded La Brea Bakery and the Los Angeles culinary mecca known as Campanile with his former wife, chef Nancy Silverton, James Beard Award–winning chef Mark Peel was a young boy who spent life’s first decade growing up in the San Gabriel Valley. It seems fitting, then, that Peel should return to his birthplace, Pasadena, to expand his most recent venture, Prawn Coastal Casual, a sustainable seafood eatery that he opened in downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market in 2017 (on the site of his previous eatery Bombo).

Prawn opened eight months ago in Old Pasadena’s One Colorado complex, in the historic structure formerly occupied by Escuela Taqueria. It’s the latest manifestation of an idea that Peel, 63, contemplated for decades but only started to make a reality three years ago. With the closure of Campanile in 2012 — and after working in such high-end California restaurants as L.A.’s Ma Maison, Beverly Hills’ Spago, Santa Monica’s Michael’s and Berkeley’s Chez Panisse for the majority of his career — he decided to focus on creating a different kind of place: one that offered healthy high-quality food that was accessible to more people in terms of price and atmosphere. Bombo, which offered steam-kettle seafood stews and boils, was a start; Prawn expands on the idea with a bigger menu that also includes grain bowls, salads, sandwiches and fish and chips.

But Prawn isn’t just a “fast-casual” restaurant, a concept that has been touted as the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry in recent years. (Chipotle, Tender Greens and Lemonade, with their stylish interiors, quick service and better-than-average food, are three that fall neatly into that category.) Prawn is fine-casual,” a newer term, defined just last year by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer on CBS’ 60 Minutes as marrying “the ethos and taste level of fine dining with the fast-food experience.”

Sure, walking into Prawn, with its fully exposed kitchen and menu above the front counter, one immediately gets the sense that it’s a relaxed space. And, yes, the food comes out in just a couple of minutes. Prawn, too, has a stylish décor (white and oceanic blues predominate; Instagrammable renderings of sea creatures adorn the walls). But what truly sets it apart from fast-casual concepts — beyond its table service and beer and wine selections — is the food created by the renowned Peel: rich, complex broths; intriguing flavor combinations; seafood that is just held to a higher standard, at a lower price.

Fine-casual is a concept that’s fast on the rise: According to restaurant industry– news website Skift Table, which cites data from market research firm Mintel, 69 percent of consumers want to see more casual restaurants that offer high-quality food and are quick and convenient, a step above fast-casual. It makes good business sense, too: Fine-casual concepts are typically smaller than full-scale formal restaurants and can benefit from lower rents; a correspondingly smaller staff also means lower labor costs. At the same time, a chef-driven menu means prices can be a little higher (in Prawn’s case, still lower than other seafood establishments serving comparable quality), and the sale of beer and wine can help raise revenue as well.

Peel and his current wife, television personality and standup comic Daphne Brogdon (Food Network’s Daphne Dishes), saw the need in downtown L.A. for just such a place — particularly one focused on seafood — when they were researching their first location. “There are a lot of [seafood] places in downtown Los Angeles, but there was nothing that was an affordable [concept],” Peel says. “Water Grill is wonderful but it’s not inexpensive. I was really targeting the 70 percent [of consumers], not the 3 percent.

“You can make a good meal for $100 a person, it’s not that difficult, but to make it for $15 a person, there’s a trick there,” he continues, referring to the broths that are the base for many of Prawn’s offerings, including the clam chowder, shrimp butter boil and spicy scallops. The “trick” is the manner in which the broths are developed. A lobster broth, for example, is based on gutted shells with remnants of lobster meat, which Peel purchases from his L.A. seafood supplier for about $2.50 a pound. For recipes that require chunks of lobster, such as his $19 Thai lobster roll, he gets meat that has already been blanched and picked. Prawn also offers a $14 paella, laden with shrimp, mussels, chicken and house-made pork sausage; and the $14 Seattle fish stew, a bestselling item, is made with lobster broth, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, salmon and bacon, served over rice. “It’s essentially a bouillabaisse,” Peel says. “Rice doesn’t belong in [a traditional] bouillabaisse but” — chef’s prerogative — “I wanted to put it in there,” he says with a chuckle.

Fans of the increasingly popular grain bowl will find it at Prawn, too. Starting off with a base of barley and quinoa, guests can opt for the Scottish salmon bowl ($12), which features an aromatic shiitake and seaweed broth, napa cabbage and pickled onions. Or they can create their own custom grain bowl (starting at $9), by picking up to four veggies, including turmeric roasted cauliflower, kabocha squash, roasted broccolini, spiced almonds, stewed chickpeas and roasted shiitake mushrooms. Next comes a protein — choose from fried egg, tofu, spicy chicken breast, spicy shrimp or salmon. “We really don’t need more than three or four ounces of a protein in a meal,” Peel says. “It’s actually healthier to have some carbs — some rice, a pasta, potatoes, vegetables. More than three or four ounces is excessive and contributes to heart disease and cancer and all kinds of things.”

Prawn’s beer and wine offerings are primarily from local suppliers, and most beer is on tap “because it’s environmentally friendly,” he says. “You don’t have all those bottles at the end of the day. Our wines are [from the] Central Coast; they’re young, fresh, delicious — complex but not overbearing.”

The Pasadena Prawn is larger than the original — at about 1,500 square feet, it’s about three times the size of the compact space in Grand Central Market — and it has a more relaxed vibe than the frenetic market scene. Peel says that working at the downtown location is “intense,” due to noise level and the crush of customers. The menu is the same in both locations, however, thanks to a centralized Lincoln Heights commissary where all the food is prepped. This “hub-and-spoke” business concept allows for consistency of product and cost control, and will continue to serve future locations as the business expands, he adds. (Peel has already been looking at Long Beach, Culver City and Century City as possible locales.)

“In the commissary we’re able to concentrate the skill and the equipment,” he says. “We do all the broths there, made in 10-gallon pressure cookers to seal in the flavor and produce rich results; we roast the potatoes and onions and bake all our cookies there. We make all of our own lemonades there, too: a fresh ginger, a passionfruit-ginger, a limeade with fresh mint and honey — and a touch of chipotle peppers to give it a little spark.”

Back at Prawn, Peel gets to play with “toys” he coveted for years before acquiring several when he opened Bombo: shiny $60,000 steel-jacketed steam kettles that put the finishing touches on all of Prawn’s broth-based dishes by quickly cooking on-site the seafood added to the premade broths. He first saw them at New York City’s venerable Grand Central Oyster Bar, which opened in 1913, and now Peel’s kettles are prominently on display — and put to use — in both locations. “I love those because they’re really clean and fast,” he says, as it doesn’t take more than three or four minutes to finish a dish. “There’s also a little bit of theater to them.”

Prawn is located in the One Colorado Courtyard, 16 Miller Alley, Pasadena. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (626) 219-6115 or visit prawncoastal.com.

Schreiner’s Fine Sausages in Glendale has been crafting fresh meats for 60 years

My recollections of walking into Schreiner’s Fine Sausages in Glendale as a young boy are still crystal clear. A silver-haired woman with a German accent standing behind an impressive display case of meats and cheeses would come over to hand me a slice of bologna wrapped in white paper. That happened every time I went with my mom to Schreiner’s, and that is exactly why I accompanied her on Saturday morning shopping trips. Free meat.

The gray-haired woman was Maria Schreiner, originally from Stuttgart, Germany. She married Walter Schreiner and, while living in New York City, they started making sausages. “Walter was from New York, though he pretended he was from Germany,” Walter’s grandson Wally Schreiner, the shop’s current owner,  tells me as I visit my childhood haunt on a warm spring day. Walter and Maria came out from the East Coast in 1952 and originally settled at 4th Street and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Why then did they move to what was then a desolate area in the northern reaches of Glendale? “Probably cheap property,” Wally surmises. That, and there was a small German-American community already established there. The reasons may be irrelevant. What are important are the sausages: bratwurst, frankfurters, Polish, bangers, Italian, Swedish potato and breakfast sausages, among a slew of other types of meats stuffed into a casing. “Maria and Walter were totally hands-on,” Wally says. “Sausage-making is in our blood.”

Wally has been at the helm of Schreiner’s for 38 years, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Six days a week he arrives at the store at 4 a.m. But he’s not one to be the face of Schreiner’s; he’s almost always in the back office, running a small meat empire. “I always told my own kids, ‘Love what you do,’” and he seems to really believe that. In 2018 Schreiner’s is nearly identical to what it was when I was 18. “We make over 150 different products; our niche is that it is all made here,” Wally says. “If I were to bring in something else, like Boar’s Head, which you can get at Costco, then it wouldn’t work. These are our meats. I adhere to the same recipes and way of sausage” making that my grandparents started.”

And for multigenerational customers like myself, that is the reason we’ll drive out of our way to go to Schreiner’s. “The key is consistency; we’re not trying to cheapen the product,” he adds. And though the products like beef jerky taste exactly as they have for decades, change is nonetheless the other nitpicky constant in Wally’s life: Schreiner’s finds it must compete with new ideas, a new customer base and new attitudes toward meat. “I need to keep changing — we can’t just be a German deli anymore, so I look for new varieties of fresh meats.”

That includes their chorizo sausage and carne asada, stealing ideas from Food Network shows and employing social media. Bacon-wrapped meatloaf is not as German as leberkäse, but Wally offers options for customers who avoid red meat. “Yeah, we offer nitrate-free meats, chicken sausages like lemon-cilantro, even some gluten-free items, so you can still come here if you’re on a diet,” he says.

Ever-evolving American diets have made no dent in demand; Schreiner’s makes between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds of sausages each week. Their large walk-in stainless-steel smoker would make any home cook jealous. Their Black Forest ham is another classic, but you’ll also find ribeye, steaks and other cuts of meat, German mustards, German beers and wines, sauerkraut and classic European potato dishes like rösti and spätzle. Wally has expanded the business into wholesale products and catering, not to mention sausages for the local Oktoberfest.

Schreiner’s employs 16 people, most of them with Wally for more than 20 years, one more than 30. The store originally was just the current deli portion with one room in the back to make sausages. Little by little Maria and Walter were able to purchase adjoining stores and expand, now to 6,200 square feet, something Wally believes they had envisioned decades ago — a sort of familial succession, a guarantee for the next generation.

Today Schreiner’s uses the bread from Berolina Bakery next door for freshly made sandwiches from its dine-in deli. A dozen tables allow you to lounge, but many people order sandwiches to go. I ask Wally if he is surprised the business is still thriving. “Kind of,” he admits. “It’s kind of crazy. There must be something here — quality and consistency, that’s what I’ve kept.” Still, as is the case with other small businesses in Arroyoland, the present and future are sometimes tenuous. “It’s a challenge each and every day to run a small business,” he acknowledges. Increasing costs are the most obvious issue, but as Wally says, “It’s hard for me to pass that on to my customers. I try and keep my price point in line and, with everything made here, it lowers my costs.” Yet he surmises that, among folks living within a five-mile radius of the store, only 20 percent know of Schreiner’s. “There are people still out there to grab.”

As Wally and I end our talk I ask if I can photograph him in the deli, but he modestly declines. As he leads me on a property tour, he says I can photograph everyone else. “The people up front and in the back, they are the players, they are what make this business what it is today — they are Schreiner’s. I just have the name.” But it is that very name that is still a draw, even after 60 years.


Schreiner’s Fine Sausages is located at 3417 Ocean View Blvd., Glendale. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Call (818) 244-4735 or visit schreinersfinesausages.com.

Pea milk? Algae oil? Consider stocking your pantry with some of these brand-new foods that are good for you.

Think about it: Our food components haven’t really changed since Eve allegedly first bit into the apple. We’re all still living off the land, consuming products derived from plants and animals. Of course there are tremendous advances in what we consume and how we prepare it, many leading to better health and longevity. And trendy “new” items now seem to appear on an almost daily basis, making food as fad-driven as fashion.

Consider the endless iterations of exotic spices, grains and fruits that purportedly offer us essential nutrients. Now that we’ve all learned that quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah, for example, the culinary cognoscenti have come up with even more obscure ancient grains they say are just as good or even better: farro, spelt, teff, fonio and kamut (a.k.a. Khorasan wheat), to name just a few coming to local markets.

And there’s a slew of new tools with which to prepare it all: slow and fast cookers, masticating juicers, air fryers, outdoor and indoor steam convection ovens. Foodies who recently spent a bundle building massive masonry pizza ovens as focal points for their outdoor kitchens are now presented with the newer trend toward lightweight, unimposing stainless-steel models. The Uuni 3 wood-fired oven claims to reach 932° in just 10 minutes and “can cook an authentic wood-fired pizza in an incredible 60 seconds.”  Better yet, it’s portable; you can tote it to your boat and your beach house!

Some of these new items will make it onto the list of enduring kitchen classics. Others will fade as fast as the micro-mini. Here’s a sampling of new food trends that may or may not hit the big-time — along with one truly significant game-changer that’s at the top of our list.

CLEAN MEAT

Neither fad nor trend, this is a revolution. Also known as “in vitro meat” or “cultured meat,” it’s meat and poultry grown in a lab from stem cells extracted from live animals, and it could start appearing on high-end restaurant menus by 2020. So-called “clean meat” is not fake or simulated meat, like the soy protein or veggie-based products in stores now. It’s the real deal, produced using technology from the medical field, and those who’ve tried samples say it tastes real because it is real. The only difference is that no animals are killed in the process.

Bill Gates and Richard Branson are reportedly heavy investors in some of the startup companies now working to make the world change from live to lab-produced steaks, chops, chickens, duck and other animal products. There are tech and regulatory issues to surmount, but industry experts predict that affordable clean meat will be in supermarkets by 2023. According to cleanmeat.org, the lab-grown product is “100 percent real meat, but without the antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella or waste contamination that comes with conventional meat production.” And, according to United Nations scientists, this new method of meat production would eliminate the huge environmental hazards and extensive depletion of natural resources that come with raising animals for food.

CANNABIS SUPERFOODS

Anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, lessened immunity and low energy are just a few of the ailments that cannabis proponents say the superweed can help alleviate. And now that about 30 states have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana, dozens of cannabis-infused foods and drinks are flooding markets. The Specialty Foods Association calls cannabis edibles a top food trend for 2018, with teas, olive oils, nuts, energy bars, coffee, crackers, honey and alcohol-free wines and beers among foods being compounded with cannabis. There are even cannabis-infused dog and cat treats for four-footed family members.

Most of the new hemp-infused products contain one or both primary cannabinoids (CBD and THC) that are said to provide health benefits. Edibles with only CBD are legal in all 50 states because they are non-psychoactive, which means they won’t give consumers a high. Those with THC will produce a buzz, depending on the amount. (One package of Mota Beef Jerky delivers 100 mg of THC; compare that to a Leafly Cherry Almond Tart, which has 13 mg of CBD and only 5 mg of buzz-producing THC.) The Los Angeles restaurant Shibumi has a CBD cannabis menu that includes tempura fried cannabis, cannabis kimchi and pork smoked with cannabis branches.

VEGGIE MILK

If you’re unimpressed with nondairy milks made from almonds, rice, soy, coconut and cashew, there’s yet another replacement for cow’s milk that’s trending now. It’s called “pea milk” or “veggie milk,” and it’s made from peas, potatoes and tapioca. Makers say it’s a boon not just for the lactose-intolerant, but also those with nut allergies. A number of brands are available, all claiming to be dairy-, nut- and-soy-free; they’re also not genetically modified. Why peas? Because veggie milk–makers say peas are packed with protein, a good source of calcium and vitamins D and B12. Pea milk reportedly has a consistency close to that of two percent milk, and it comes in flavors, including unsweetened and chocolate.

ALGAE OIL

The folks at the Terra Via company in San Francisco have come out with Thrive Algae Oil for cooking, baking and salad dressing. Algae may sound icky to those who learned in science class about its contribution to pond scum. But there’s a vast and varied world of algae, some of them not just helpful, but critical, to our existence, thanks to the role they play in food products, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, bioplastics,biofuels and more.  The company calls algae “the mother of all plants and earth’s original superfood.”  It claims their algae cooking oil has 75 percent less saturated fat than olive oil, and the highest levels of good, monounsaturated fat of all oils used for cooking. What’s more, it has an unusually high smoke point, which makes it great for frying and sautéeing. Sourced from the sap of a chestnut tree, the algae is fermented in huge sterile vats where it’s converted into oil.

CHICKPEA CONCOCTIONS

Long a staple at salad bars and the backbone of hummus, the garbanzo has now been elevated to an elegant snack food and has also found its way into all sorts of edibles, from protein bars to pasta and peanut butter. Like other legumes, such as beans and lentils, chickpeas are high in fiber and protein and contain several key vitamins and minerals. Considered a healthy snack substitute for chips, bags of crispy, roasted garbanzos are spiked with wasabi, ranch, honey and other flavors. And now garbanzos have even gone sweet. Biena Snacks coats the crunchy beans in light or dark chocolate or salted caramel. Their newest is the Thin Mint chickpea snack, with flavor licensed from the folks who make Girl Scout cookies. The crisped beans are coated in dark chocolate and Thin Mint cookie dough.

Campanile Chef Mark Peel serves up his latest seafood eatery in his hometown.

Before he was mentored by Wolfgang Puck, before he worked at such celebrated French restaurants as La Tour d’Argent and Le Moulin de Mougins and before he cofounded La Brea Bakery and the Los Angeles culinary mecca known as Campanile with his former wife, chef Nancy Silverton, James Beard Award–winning chef Mark Peel was a young boy who spent life’s first decade growing up in the San Gabriel Valley. It seems fitting, then, that Peel should return to his birthplace, Pasadena, to expand his most recent venture, Prawn Coastal Casual, a sustainable seafood eatery that he opened in downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market in 2017 (on the site of his previous eatery Bombo).

Prawn opened eight months ago in Old Pasadena’s One Colorado complex, in the historic structure formerly occupied by Escuela Taqueria. It’s the latest manifestation of an idea that Peel, 63, contemplated for decades but only started to make a reality three years ago. With the closure of Campanile in 2012 — and after working in such high-end California restaurants as L.A.’s Ma Maison, Beverly Hills’ Spago, Santa Monica’s Michael’s and Berkeley’s Chez Panisse for the majority of his career — he decided to focus on creating a different kind of place: one that offered healthy high-quality food that was accessible to more people in terms of price and atmosphere. Bombo, which offered steam-kettle seafood stews and boils, was a start; Prawn expands on the idea with a bigger menu that also includes grain bowls, salads, sandwiches and fish and chips.

But Prawn isn’t just a “fast-casual” restaurant, a concept that has been touted as the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry in recent years. (Chipotle, Tender Greens and Lemonade, with their stylish interiors, quick service and better-than-average food, are three that fall neatly into that category.) Prawn is fine-casual,” a newer term, defined just last year by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer on CBS’ 60 Minutes as marrying “the ethos and taste level of fine dining with the fast-food experience.”

Sure, walking into Prawn, with its fully exposed kitchen and menu above the front counter, one immediately gets the sense that it’s a relaxed space. And, yes, the food comes out in just a couple of minutes. Prawn, too, has a stylish décor (white and oceanic blues predominate; Instagrammable renderings of sea creatures adorn the walls). But what truly sets it apart from fast-casual concepts — beyond its table service and beer and wine selections — is the food created by the renowned Peel: rich, complex broths; intriguing flavor combinations; seafood that is just held to a higher standard, at a lower price.

Fine-casual is a concept that’s fast on the rise: According to restaurant industry– news website Skift Table, which cites data from market research firm Mintel, 69 percent of consumers want to see more casual restaurants that offer high-quality food and are quick and convenient, a step above fast-casual. It makes good business sense, too: Fine-casual concepts are typically smaller than full-scale formal restaurants and can benefit from lower rents; a correspondingly smaller staff also means lower labor costs. At the same time, a chef-driven menu means prices can be a little higher (in Prawn’s case, still lower than other seafood establishments serving comparable quality), and the sale of beer and wine can help raise revenue as well.

Peel and his current wife, television personality and standup comic Daphne Brogdon (Food Network’s Daphne Dishes), saw the need in downtown L.A. for just such a place — particularly one focused on seafood — when they were researching their first location. “There are a lot of [seafood] places in downtown Los Angeles, but there was nothing that was an affordable [concept],” Peel says. “Water Grill is wonderful but it’s not inexpensive. I was really targeting the 70 percent [of consumers], not the 3 percent.

“You can make a good meal for $100 a person, it’s not that difficult, but to make it for $15 a person, there’s a trick there,” he continues, referring to the broths that are the base for many of Prawn’s offerings, including the clam chowder, shrimp butter boil and spicy scallops. The “trick” is the manner in which the broths are developed. A lobster broth, for example, is based on gutted shells with remnants of lobster meat, which Peel purchases from his L.A. seafood supplier for about $2.50 a pound. For recipes that require chunks of lobster, such as his $19 Thai lobster roll, he gets meat that has already been blanched and picked. Prawn also offers a $14 paella, laden with shrimp, mussels, chicken and house-made pork sausage; and the $14 Seattle fish stew, a bestselling item, is made with lobster broth, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, salmon and bacon, served over rice. “It’s essentially a bouillabaisse,” Peel says. “Rice doesn’t belong in [a traditional] bouillabaisse but” — chef’s prerogative — “I wanted to put it in there,” he says with a chuckle.

Fans of the increasingly popular grain bowl will find it at Prawn, too. Starting off with a base of barley and quinoa, guests can opt for the Scottish salmon bowl ($12), which features an aromatic shiitake and seaweed broth, napa cabbage and pickled onions. Or they can create their own custom grain bowl (starting at $9), by picking up to four veggies, including turmeric roasted cauliflower, kabocha squash, roasted broccolini, spiced almonds, stewed chickpeas and roasted shiitake mushrooms. Next comes a protein — choose from fried egg, tofu, spicy chicken breast, spicy shrimp or salmon. “We really don’t need more than three or four ounces of a protein in a meal,” Peel says. “It’s actually healthier to have some carbs — some rice, a pasta, potatoes, vegetables. More than three or four ounces is excessive and contributes to heart disease and cancer and all kinds of things.”

Prawn’s beer and wine offerings are primarily from local suppliers, and most beer is on tap “because it’s environmentally friendly,” he says. “You don’t have all those bottles at the end of the day. Our wines are [from the] Central Coast; they’re young, fresh, delicious — complex but not overbearing.”

The Pasadena Prawn is larger than the original — at about 1,500 square feet, it’s about three times the size of the compact space in Grand Central Market — and it has a more relaxed vibe than the frenetic market scene. Peel says that working at the downtown location is “intense,” due to noise level and the crush of customers. The menu is the same in both locations, however, thanks to a centralized Lincoln Heights commissary where all the food is prepped. This “hub-and-spoke” business concept allows for consistency of product and cost control, and will continue to serve future locations as the business expands, he adds. (Peel has already been looking at Long Beach, Culver City and Century City as possible locales.)

“In the commissary we’re able to concentrate the skill and the equipment,” he says. “We do all the broths there, made in 10-gallon pressure cookers to seal in the flavor and produce rich results; we roast the potatoes and onions and bake all our cookies there. We make all of our own lemonades there, too: a fresh ginger, a passionfruit-ginger, a limeade with fresh mint and honey — and a touch of chipotle peppers to give it a little spark.”

Back at Prawn, Peel gets to play with “toys” he coveted for years before acquiring several when he opened Bombo: shiny $60,000 steel-jacketed steam kettles that put the finishing touches on all of Prawn’s broth-based dishes by quickly cooking on-site the seafood added to the premade broths. He first saw them at New York City’s venerable Grand Central Oyster Bar, which opened in 1913, and now Peel’s kettles are prominently on display — and put to use — in both locations. “I love those because they’re really clean and fast,” he says, as it doesn’t take more than three or four minutes to finish a dish. “There’s also a little bit of theater to them.”

Prawn is located in the One Colorado Courtyard, 16 Miller Alley, Pasadena. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (626) 219-6115 or visit prawncoastal.com.

Grand Velas Los Cabos is a recent entry among the tourist mecca’s booming luxury offerings.

This is a tale of two Cabos — and I don’t mean San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, the two cities at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula known collectively as Los Cabos. Instead, let’s count the cities as one, both the colonial-architecture-rich municipality seat and the lively touristy town you’re probably thinking of. The “other” Cabo is the 20-mile-long Tourist Corridor between the two cities. Let’s start there.

Once a remote rural fishing area, Los Cabos, a short plane ride away, has been a tourism hotspot for years, thanks in part to much-publicized visits from celebrities, from Elizabeth Taylor to Jennifer Aniston. And yet, tourism there, particularly along the oceanfront corridor, is booming beyond even its popular reputation. The boom is in luxury — both the quantity and quality of the burgeoning hotel scene. This, despite the U.S. State Department’s August 2017 travel warning of a spike in violence due to turf battles among criminal organizations.

That warning may be less than one year old, but the tourism industry people I met there last month seemed utterly unruffled by it, noting that bad guys don’t target tourists. And they have good reason — Los Cabos recently hired 200 more police officers, and Mexico’s Marines took command of local police in November, with plans to build two military bases in Cabos’ home state of Baja California Sur. And yet, in a visit last month, I didn’t feel a military presence, the way I did in the embattled southern Philippines years ago.

What I did see were several high-end hotels under construction, including one next door to my hotel (although, fortunately, I didn’t hear the work). It was easy to see why. Grand Velas Los Cabos’ curved façade overlooks crashing waves, a soothing soundtrack for dining, sleeping and all-around destressing. Ranked the No. 1 hotel in San José del Cabo by Tripadvisor, Grand Velas has been at the forefront of the luxury boom here since it opened a year and a half ago, thanks to a staff ratio of 3 to 1, personalized service (e.g., your name is on the hotel’s home screen on TV), an open bar with premium-brand liquor, Michelin-worthy cuisine, organized activities for kids and teenagers, three pools including one just for adults, a health club–size fitness center, even a free minibar stocked daily. It’s all part of the AAA Five-Diamond hotel all-inclusive plan.

“Most luxury hotels are on the European plan,” Grand Velas’ Michelle González told me. “We wanted to go beyond that. This is a worry-free location. You can enjoy every restaurant without having to take care of the bill.” And there are five of them. More on that later.

The $150 million beachfront property is the fifth hotel built by Mexico’s Vela brothers, developers who were prodded into the tourism industry by serendipity. When the world economy took a dive in 2008, they switched gears on a new condo building in Puerto Vallarta, finding that hotels were a better bet. That may help explain the ample lodgings — the 304 suites are all built facing the water and the smallest one, the Ambassador Suite, is the size of a modest house, at 1,180 square feet. All have roomy terraces and some even have private plunge pools. You can also opt for a Wellness Suite duplex, with a Lifecycle, rice chips and teas, an aromatherapy kit and space for your private yoga session. Or a Family Suite, which includes adjoining rooms, crib, chef-made baby food and turn-down for kids with cookies and milk. (The Vela brothers are big family men, rotating large holiday celebrations among their various resorts.)

My first impression was the striking, award-winning architecture by architect Ricardo Elias of Guadalajara and Miami, who also designed two other Grand Velas resorts and the Centro Cultural Nuestra América, a library, theater and education complex in Mérida, Mexico. You arrive at a monumental lobby with an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean and two huge, sinuous wooden settees that double as sculpture, where a staff member greets you with a cool towel and tropical fruit juice. Other works by Mexican artists appear throughout the hotel (an art gallery is in the planning stage), which is encased in earth and sea tones meant to mesh visually with the beach, boulders and Pacific and soften the dazzle of the strong midday sun. Four additional architects joined Elias in designing the hotel’s interiors and five restaurants.

Okay, let’s stop there. The hotel is justly proud of its cuisine. In fact, if you go, go for the waves and the food. (Also the spa. More on that later.) Do not miss the adults-only Cocina de Autor, named one of the world’s best new restaurants for 2017 by CNN a mere two weeks after it opened. The seasonal menu is designed by Dutch Chef Sidney Schutte, who boasts two Michelin stars. It’s a set tasting menu with eight courses (e.g., tuna and beetroot with chives and horseradish milk), although you can swap out anything you like. Schutte favors fusion cuisine that does new and surprising things with Mexican flavors, something I also found at the Mexican restaurant, Frida.

If the restaurants surprised me, so did the spa, where I had a blue agave facial (it’s in the mask). Before that I experienced the hotel’s hourlong hydrotherapy circuit in what Forbes Travel Guide calls a “35,000-square-foot aquatic paradise,” which comes with all treatments. Staff members gently guide you through a seven-step journey of water stations, where you’re pummeled, caressed and invigorated. Follow that with stops in dry and wet saunas, an ice room (I skipped that) and rain showers with chromatherapy.  I doubt you’ll find anything like it in Southern California; at least you shouldn’t be able to find it in SoCal.

We did leave the property for a sunset sail with Cabo Adventures, which also offers tours involving dolphins, whale sharks, even camels. Ours was a lovely, margarita-fueled excursion to see El Arco (The Arch), an iconic rock formation rising out of the sea at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula. That meant going to that other Cabo, the noisy one crammed with tourists who seemed desperate to have fun. Cabo Adventures’ home base was fairly chaotic, so go expecting the worst and you’ll be fine.


For information and reservations, call (888) 505-8406 or visit https://loscabos.grandvelas.com. For Cabo Adventures, call (888) 526-2238
or visit www.cabo-adventures.com

This year’s Showcase House of Design updates a turn-of-the-century estate with gold accents and other trendy touches.

The 2018 Pasadena Showcase House of Design was once known as “Overlook,” because when this elegant estate was built high on a hill in Altadena, it had a view that reached as far as Catalina. A lot has changed since 1915 when the 11,000-square-foot villa was built for $14,000. At the time, Altadena was an unincorporated retreat for an eclectic mix of retired Easterners, businessmen working in Pasadena and Los Angeles, artists and Western novelist Zane Grey. Imagine small orchards, poultry farms and vineyards on the west side and open tracts of ranch lands on the east. The rural community attracted two widowed sisters, Ruth E. Hargrove and Mary Emma Baker, who bought 5½ acres of land in the sparsely populated northeast section.
Although the American Craftsman era was in full flower in the region (Greene and Greene had established their firm in Pasadena in 1894 and built the Gamble House in 1908), the sisters wanted a Mediterranean-style home. They hired the up-and-coming Reginald Davis Johnson, who’d studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved to Pasadena when his father, Episcopal Bishop Joseph Horsfall Johnson, was assigned to the Los Angeles Diocese in 1894.
Considering the similar climates, the white walls and sunny spaces of the Mediterranean style seemed a perfect match for Southern California and Johnson was an early advocate of the style. He left his mark on such other SoCal buildings as All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel, La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla and the Santa Barbara Post Office.
For Outlook, Johnson designed a large foyer, living room, screened porch, dining room, kitchen, pantry and maid’s room with 1½ baths downstairs. Upstairs are four bedrooms and three baths. Later owners added a 780-square-foot duplex residence — most likely for servants — and a garage with a chauffeur’s quarters.
Twenty-three Showcase House designers were charged with updating the design — both interior and exterior — while remaining sensitive to the home’s historical features. Three contemporary trends tying the refreshed spaces together include the return of gold accents in a more muted form, textured wall treatments and decorated ceilings. Creating rooms that span centuries is a welcome challenge for Showcase designers. As Genaro Lagdameo of Designs of the Interior (DI) in Westlake Village explained, “The best part of Showcase is being able to work on a home of historical value” with “an architectural grandeur you don’t see anymore” and adapting it for current lifestyles. The fundraiser, which runs through May 20, benefits local music education and performances.

Classy Brass
Think of the petite lounge (at right) as an oasis during or after a game in the adjacent billiard room, both remodeled by Designs of the Interior. Both rooms glimmer with gold, including the light fixtures by Kelly Wearstler and custom-designed by DI; also custom are the lounge’s gold stools topped with faux fur and the shiny brass sink; the brass bar shelving supports were manufactured by Urban Archaeology of New York. Flanking the shelving is black tile with inlaid brass-wire arabesques from Walker Zanger’s Ellington collection. “Right now, gold rather than chrome is the trend,” Lagdameo says. “It was very popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s.”
What changed? Technology, of course. “The trouble with brass is that it turns color and you have to keep it polished,” says Palm Springs designer Michael Wrusch, who used subtle gold touches in the family room. But, he notes, advances in physical vapor deposition (PVD), a light film on the metal, maintains the high polish longer.
A golden gleam left also warms up the modern man’s retreat (see cover and photos above and below), designed by Irvine-based Xander Noori, blending Eastern and Western influences. Noori created a custom desk using the biomorphic “Texas” hand-forged base from Organic Modernism in Brooklyn, New York, which he topped with white marble. He coupled that with the sleek modern lines of Fuse Lighting’s brassy “Tokyo” table lamp, and contrasted contemporary style with a turn-of-the-century typewriter and other vintage accessories he picked up at the Paris flea market and 1stdibs.com. A large floor-length mirror framed in gold amplifies the space.
No Wallflowers
How about wall zebras instead? Pasadena’s Parker West Interiors designed the master bedroom entry around the owner’s existing wallpaper, bedecked with zebras bounding away from arrows (Scalamandré’s “Zebras,” above).
The wallpapered accent wall of the Cozy Stylish Chic Suite looked to the skies for inspiration — the stars of Orion, that is. Using NASA imagery, Calico Wallpaper of Brooklyn custom-printed the constellation on mylar and sized it for Jeanne K. Chung of Pasadena (at right). Another intriguing wall treatment adorns the Powder Room designed by Burbank’s Louise O’Malley, who covered a wall with Jim Thompson Fabrics’ brown-and-white material in a striking geometric pattern (far right).

Above and Beyond
For one of the latest design trends, look up. Designers are embellishing ceilings with eye-catching finishes. DI’s Lagdameo accented the ceiling with Anthology’s “Oxidise” wallpaper (above), which resembles metallic tiles. Lagdameo says his goal was “a tiled ceiling effect with a metallic touch to add the right amount of bling.”
Another interesting ceiling is in the media room designed by Pasadena’s JS Design + Create of Pasadena. The firm’s Janet Sanchez covered a rectangular ceiling panel in Farrow & Ball’s “Tourbillon” wallpaper with light pink swirls on navy blue, which matches the wall treatment. Sanchez says she wanted to create a “halo” effect to prevent the usually darkened room from looking too gloomy.

Gold and brass tones are returning to fine finishes

Tired of the standard chrome and stainless-steel finishes for your bathroom and kitchen fixtures? According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), shades of gold and brass are the hottest hues in today’s kitchens and baths.
If fixtures are the “jewelry” of the bathroom, then gold or brass, depending on your taste and style, might be just the ticket to add some pizzazz, patina and a unique twist to your interior décor. While gold may appeal to those with more formal, luxurious taste, brass is the choice for those who prefer a nautical, industrial or ethnic style.
Pasadena designer Cynthia Bennett, noting that “everything has been white and gray,” has two current projects reflecting the gold and brass trend. “We are doing a powder room with gold fixtures and a gold ceiling and lavish wallpaper that’s an addition for a traditional home built in the 1940s in Pasadena,” she says. “It’s a very opulent look.”
For her other project, a young South Pasadena couple’s Craftsman home, the clients decided to mix it up. “The kitchen is stainless steel, but they wanted brass faucets,” Bennett says, adding that hardware in old houses is often brass. “We’ve always used gold or brass lamps as well as mirrors as accent pieces, which can stand on their own in a room and don’t have to match anything.”

Go for the Gold
If your mind immediately goes to “bling-bling” Las Vegas or flashy Trump Tower when someone mentions gold, you might want to rewire your brain and take a fresh look at this design trend.
California Faucets is seeing “a modern-day gold rush” with an increasing number of orders trending in gold as well as brass. This SoCal manufacturer offers one of the largest varieties of premium gold and brass finishes on the market. Tones dubbed Lifetime Gold, French Gold and Lifetime Polished Gold add a touch of glamor; brass finishes like Satin Brass, Satin Bronze and Polished Brass are less about bling and more about subtle beauty. The artisan finishes, produced by hand at the company’s Huntington Beach factory, allow consumers to venture outside their chrome and nickel comfort zones and experiment with an alternative decorative color spectrum.
Another stand-out is the Venezia faucet collection by Fantini, the Italian design firm founded in 1947 by two brothers. Venezia faucets, designed by Milan-based designers Matteo Thun and Antonio Rodriguez, are architectural in form, with a hexagonal spout and elegant crystal handles embellished with black or white serigraphy. Fantini collaborates with artists and architects on its fine bathroom and kitchen collections crafted with high-quality materials in modern Italian style.
Gold is also turning up in chic kitchens. Consider appliances with gold trim, as shown in this stunning kitchen from Ultra Bathroom & Kitchen (above) in Arcadia. “Chrome is less expensive and popular and always nice, but a lot of manufacturers are expanding their lines to include rose gold and brushed bronze,” says Ultra’s Frank Rojas, adding that wine racks with brass from True Residential are “popular right now.”
You can choose between cobalt-blue or matte-white finishes with gold hardware — we love the pop of blue as an unexpected twist to a kitchen design. Combine gold fixtures with white marble counters or tiles or contrast them against black materials for a sophisticated upgrade. Set them against pale wood for a Scandinavian feel. Just don’t overdo it or your bling could crash like the 1929 stock market.

Natural Brass
Known for its ability to weather the elements, brass was used in Victorian times for streetlamps and subway entrances as well as in the shipping industry. In recent decades, it was almost impossible to source unfinished brass, which develops a natural patina with time. (Not to your taste? Then keep it polished to a brassy shine.) Muted, satin or brushed brass can add warmth to a kitchen or bath design. Mix it with handmade tiles for a French-country or Mexican-inspired look.
Kallista is a great source for unfinished brass fixtures. The Unlacquered Brass finish is available on its Quincy and One kitchen faucet line, as well as its Bellis bathroom products. Inspired by 1920s plumbing, the Bellis collection freshens traditional spaces, offering the familiarity and comfort of traditional design with a twist.

Decorative accents
Brass or gold finishes in lighting and mirrors throughout the home can add decorative pop to an otherwise “metal-free” room. Design within Reach has a variety of smart-looking desk and freestanding lamps — from Flos’ geometric Captain Flint floor lamp (at right) by London-based designer Michael Anastassiades (whose work is in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection), to the nautically influenced, vintage-style Oval Bulkhead Light designed by Davey Lighting, a company that traces its origins to the shipyards of 19th-century London. Davey & Co. lights graced the decks of many a famous ocean liner, including the Titanic, and these handcrafted gems are still made in England using century-old techniques.
For a truly unique accent, add an antique gold or brass piece, like the 18th-century Ottoman giltwood turban stand from First Dibs, a distinctive object that transcends centuries of design trends.

Michael Olshefski designs sensuous tables and artwork using reclaimed wood pieces that “speak” to him.

Some people can’t see the forest for the trees, but Michael Olshefski sees the forest in his exquisite reclaimed-wood furniture. The architect and designer behind Primal Modern in Glassell Park creates museum-quality tables and artworks that reflect his Zen appreciation of nature. Using wood pieces that “speak” to him, Olshefski works with clients to customize furniture that fits their lifestyle.
An award-winning graduate of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), Olshefski has worked in architectural design and construction for 25 years. High-profile projects he contributed to include the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Otis College of Art and Design, the Griffith Observatory and USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center. These days, he’s starting on a project at Santa Monica College as senior project manager for the new math and science building, among other design roles.
Until recently, woodworking was just a hobby for Olshefski. “Four years ago, I decided to really go into it and open up my own studio,” he said. “The work I did in the past looked like woodworkers’ furniture. Now I define myself as a designer who happens to work with wood as a medium.” Yet Olshefski’s practice is strongly rooted in woodworking. “When I was born, my father was a carpenter, a woodworker,” he recalled. His parents took snapshots of him with a hammer when he was a toddler. He went on to become a certified carpenter. “My hands-on experience was a huge plus when I went to architecture school,” he said. “On the flip side, I had to learn to pull away from those preconceived things, general practices I had as a carpenter.” When one thinks about a door, Olshefski continued, “Why does it have to be rectangular?”
Most of his Primal Modern works are rectangular and influenced by his realization that “people have a very strong opinion about the wood. They are afraid of damaging it.” A visit to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles with his wife of 17 years, Linda Stiehl, inspired a solution to that problem. “My mind is always thinking about design and I’m looking at the museum case,” noting the separation between the glass and the wood, he said. The wood of his tables is the art on exhibit, but some clients lay out collections of their own atop the wood and under the glass. “One client displayed his antique daggers on them.”
Going through his portfolio at primalmodern.com, you can see obvious signs of Buddhist inspiration, something clearly expressed throughout the Primal Modern website. Burnt Forest I and Burnt Forest II, glass-topped cocktail tables of sinuous slabs of wood atop a bed of pebbles, will remind gardening buffs of the dry landscape of the Ryōan-ji Zen temple in Kyoto. Olshefski said the rock area represents an estuary of water. “It’s a miniature bonsai concept.”
Buddhism might not seem an obvious path for a guy who was born and raised in upstate New York on an Adirondack Mountains game preserve. “We raised horses, dogs and quails,” he said. “There weren’t really a lot of people around me.” Later, at SCI-Arc, Olshefski was exposed to a wide variety of influences and encouraged by the school to form his own artistic philosophy. He took classes in chaos theory and fractal geometry. “Everything in nature is mathematics,” he says. “You just need to look at everything and see how it grows, how everything is a component of the next and the scale just changes.”
Olshefski also took a class in sumi-e painting and washi paper-making from a Japanese professor. “I didn’t know what to expect when I took the course. It was life-changing.” One of the things the teacher emphasized was “understanding the state of your mind when you are about to do the process.” Sometimes what you do is what you feel. “If you’re feeling aggressive, highly energized, then you should paint bamboo,” because that involves a firm planting of the brush and confident thrusts. On the other hand, “if you’re feeling more relaxed or melancholic,” orchids are a better subject choice because they “have a whole different flow.” With sumi-e, one is only painting in black, but one also learns there are “thousands of shades of black.” Olshefski found painting was “a process of meditation,” allowing him to focus on emotions.
Since 2001, Olshefski and Stiehl, who handles Primal Modern’s marketing, have made several pilgrimages to Asia. Indeed, travel has been a boon to the couple. It was a canceled flight en route to L.A. that led them to first meet at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. They became certified scuba divers on their honeymoon.
Olshefski’s journeys underwater inspired such design pieces as his Manta table, with biomorphic lines invoking those of the graceful ray. Olshefski had always loved the minimalism of Japanese architecture, which is often expressed in his Primal Modern works. “The frames are not actually composed of pieces welded together. They are sheets folded,” like origami.
A small 5-by-5-foot dining table starts at $5,000 and goes up to $100,000, depending on materials and design. Cocktail tables start at $2,500, and accent tables are about $1,500. An ornamental piece like Sunrise or Sunset costs about $900. As Stiehl noted, “When we present at art expos, just about everyone who visits our location stops mid-step and just gazes at his work or says, ‘Wow.’ The visceral reaction is so wonderful to watch. His clientele tends to be those who truly appreciate fine art, love to surround themselves with beauty and want to have a unique experience with the artist and designer. “
About 80 percent of his work is commissioned. “Usually, they think they’ve got more room than they do,” he said of his clients. Olshefski uses AutoCAD design software for presentations and makes several mock-ups to ensure the piece is a perfect fit for each client.
Aspiring do-it-yourselfers should know that working with reclaimed wood isn’t easy. And if you have a stump or old tree you’d like to work with, don’t bother calling Primal Modern. “A lot of people offer me trees to salvage,” Olshefski said. While all the reclaimed wood at Primal Modern is domestic, the designer only works with three mills. Mills can be reluctant to take old trees because they may be embedded with stones, rocks, nails or even barbed wire.
Finding a suitable piece of wood is only the beginning. “Each piece requires three to four years of air-drying in a shed before you can put it in a kiln to dry it… Drying in a kiln kills all the bacteria and all the insects.” After that, there’s no worry about bugs coming out of the wood while he’s working on it or when it’s in a client’s space. The piece he used for Manta, for example, was cut and air-dried for three years and came out weighing 900 pounds. After four months in a kiln, that weight shrank to 300.
It takes time to make a forest and it takes time to bring pieces of a forest into a home. If you want to see the forest differently and more intimately, take a look at Primal Modern.

Primal Modern is located at 2530 N. San Fernando Rd., Studio G, Los Angeles. Call (323) 810-0105 or visit primalmodern.com.

Arcadia Performing Arts Center’s Maki Hsieh wants to bring arts education to all area kids, regardless of income.

When Maki Hsieh introduced New Moon at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center (APAC) last month, the audience was able to thrill to her clear, classically trained soprano tones and her virtuoso violin playing. Hsieh’s new album includes a piece inspired by life in the Pasadena area, and she also hopes to inspire Arcadians toward greater immersion in the arts.
Hsieh says she gave her new album a lunar title because “a new moon is rare and the album presents a new artist, new ideas, new awakenings.” You might already be familiar with Hsieh’s work — her dubstep violin and vocal remix of the Skrillex song “Kyoto” was No. 1 on Los Angeles, U.S. and global electronic music charts for five weeks; she followed that up with her remix of Seven Lions’ “Isis.”
While Hsieh performed her entire album, she also noted in an interview that some of her older fans come to hear her rendition of “Ave Maria” as well as crowd favorites such as “Phantom of the Opera” and The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” Hsieh also planned something for young people: a segment with a rock band and dance crew. There will even be a bit of San Gabriel Valley color in her original composition, “Shabu Shabu Love Song,” inspired by so-called “parachute kids” — Asian minors, predominantly Taiwanese, whose parents park them in the U.S. to be educated.
Hsieh has come to know many of them in her first year as executive director of the Arcadia Performing Arts Center, the five-year-old addition to Arcadia High School that presents drama, dance and music performances. As executive director of the center, she knows Arcadia’s got talent, but talent still needs to be nurtured. Each year, about 1,350 students train there in various aspects of entertainment, from performance to administration. Most other similar organizations, like the Broad Stage at Santa Monica College, are in collegiate settings. But Arcadia High School’s arts programs stand out — it has a nationally recognized marching band, three concert bands, three symphony orchestras, three percussion ensembles, six performing and competition choral groups plus dance and theater productions.
The Arcadia center provides what amounts to “a daily classroom,” in addition to their regular schooling, for performing arts students, Hsieh says. She’s familiar with the program from a parental perspective as well. Her older daughter, Camilla, made full use of her arts education at Arcadia High, although she was “never really serious with entertainment” as a career. Camilla spent 40 hours a week at the center in rehearsals and with various musical groups on top of a full load of AP classes, Hsieh says. Where did Camilla’s strong arts foundation lead? To a full academic scholarship at UC Berkeley — in environmental sciences.
“Our problems are so complex that there is no simple solution anymore. Multifaceted issues can only be solved by multifaceted and creative thinkers,” she says, adding that Camilla is “my poster child” for making a great arts education more attractive, even for students planning careers outside the arts. Her younger daughter, Aubrey, is only in the third grade, but she loves to sing and plays a pink violin. She was cast as one of four Chips in Arcadia High School’s March production of Beauty and the Beast. Their father, Michael E. Leonard (Hsieh divorced in 2010), is also artistic — he’s a prominent medical illustrator.
As both a parent and an educator, Hsieh is concerned about “a huge disparity in arts education” according to neighborhood income levels. From interviews with teachers, she found “so many potholes in the system” because “we can tell which child came from which middle school just on their arts education.” Athletics are often in the same situation. In less affluent areas, many parents aren’t available to teach after-school classes or can’t afford music or dance lessons for their children. In high schools, arts programs mostly benefit from tenured teachers. “There’s investment at the high school level, but a huge problem at K through 8” where “arts education is not integrated into the curriculum.” Often Title 1 schools have nothing. “Three Title 1 schools didn’t even have a choir,” Hsieh says.
The Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation, which operates APAC, “is in the business of developing talent at a young age,” because without that background, “children will lose their competitive advantage,” Hsieh says. “We’re a cultural destination, a youth incubator. We make great art accessible. We believe all children ought to receive the same quality of arts education regardless of your family zip code.”
But she acknowledges that challenges persist. For one thing, she’s working against certain cultural traditions in Arcadia, which is 59 percent Asian. “Asians do not want their children to go into the arts as a career unless that is the only thing you can do,” Hsieh says. In the past, “if your family was very, very poor, you would sell your child to a theater troupe. A lot of Americans are surprised at the Chinese Olympic teams where a child has been training since 12 years old.” But, Hsieh says, sports are enshrined in Chinese culture, while the Chinese language has a telling derogatory term for arts students — “theater child.”
Still, Hsieh is optimistic about changing minds here. “Arcadia is very passionate about arts education, but we don’t have the funding right now,” she says. “The foundation’s vision is No. 1: engagement with our community, building loyalty and excitement. That means the second goal is fundraising for equipment.” Third is creating a regional Arcadia choir where, for $25 per month, children can have their “first entry into music” and “an opportunity to perform with a professional orchestra each year.” That means launching an arts education campaign and even an endowment. The plans are ambitious but, Hsieh says, “We hope that the community will come along with us.”
Hsieh understands cross-cultural communication because she’s a product of it — her name reveals that her mother was Japanese and her father was Taiwanese Chinese, and she was raised as a U.S. citizen in both countries. Her mother taught Japanese language and culture, and her father was a businessman, but they also appreciated the arts. Her father was “an amazing tenor” and her mother was a master teacher of ikebana. “The feeling of art in my family is that it’s a part of the everyday. There is not this huge dichotomy” separating art from daily life. “I was encouraged at a very young age to explore the arts.”
Her mother once scolded her for mechanically playing her musical scales because “it needs to have emotion” — her mother told her to “play the scale like a human being.”
Born in Taiwan and educated at the Taipei American School, she later attended Phillips Academy Andover, a top boarding school in Massachusetts. There she was “really able to explore what Taiwan wasn’t able to offer,” including such American art forms as musical theater and jazz. But she also came to understand that she was partially deaf — something that in Taiwan her mother had confronted with angry denials. When a school nurse noted Hsieh’s deafness, her mother insisted “she’s normal” because she was “afraid of losing face.” Hsieh’s mother “never talked to me about it,” she says, but she learned the truth at age of 15, at boarding school. By then, she was already compensating.
“You sense things in a different way when you’re semi-deaf,” she says. For her, “everything has a vibration; everything has a frequency.” And these are two different things. “Vibration is movement of energy; frequency is how high or low. I hear the vibration of the lightbulb. That’s why I practice in the dark. I turn off the refrigerator. Otherwise, I can’t focus on my voice and my violin.”
At boarding school, she says, she learned that “the American spirit is robust and very brave. It attacks classical conventions with new ideas.” In Chinese culture the “fear of failure drives everything.” But in America, “if you fail, you get up and try again.”
Hsieh tried everything from sports to music. At boarding school, she was concertmaster of two orchestras and received the Andover Music Prize. Although she trained with violinist Berl Senofsky at Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Conservatory, she graduated from Johns Hopkins as a sociology major in pre-med, winning the Hopkins Prize for inner-city research. She explained, “The more things you did, the more friends you make.” Hsieh went on to compete at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Belgium; sing the national anthem for Major League Baseball; appear in A Song for Manzanar (2015), a short film about a Japanese internment camp in California that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival; and perform in more than 300 festivals, venues and arenas, including Special Olympics World Games, StubHub Center and Las Vegas Motor Speedway for 100,000 Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) fans. Not to mention a contestant stint on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
Being artistic is “a way of life,” Hsieh says. “It’s in the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you engage your friends. Everything you do should be infused with an artistic elegance.”

JPL Senior Research Scientist Bonnie Buratti talks about traveling to the great beyond.

Bonnie J. Buratti was working in Rome when we called to chat on International Women’s Day, which celebrates women’s accomplishments. She is certainly among Arroyoland’s (and the nation’s) superbly accomplished women. Buratti is a planetary astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she is a senior research scientist supervising the Comets, Asteroids and Satellites Group.
She is currently analyzing data from the completed Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, for which she earned NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal. She’s also working on the agency’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and its moons, and is the U.S. Project scientist for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, the first spacecraft to soft-land a robot on a comet. In 2014 Buratti, who advises NASA, was elected chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, and she’s a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. The International Astronomical Union even named asteroid 90503 “Buratti” in recognition of her work.
In addition to all that, Buratti recently wrote a book for nonscientists who yearn to learn about what’s happening out of this world and in the great beyond. Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar (Cambridge University Press) is a densely packed compendium of modern space exploration throughout the solar system — explaining Mercury, Venus, Mars, comets, asteroids, exoplanets and more — while describing what it all looks like, how they evolved, how we found out about them and who were the people involved. It’s also peppered with wit, personal anecdotes and historical oddities, zooming back to the ancients and into the future as new discoveries alter our understanding of Earth’s place in the universe and the possibilities lurking that we are not alone.
The Altadena resident has been married for 36 years to Cal Poly Pomona physics professor and author Kai S. Lam. They have three grown sons. Buratti holds numerous degrees — a B.S. and M.S. in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences from MIT and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy and Space Sciences from Cornell University. We asked her to talk about her life and work.

At 65, you seem to be speeding up instead of slowing down. In many corporate settings, there’s a lot of ageism, especially toward women. Have you experienced that in the science world?
I’ve never thought about it. I know it exists elsewhere, but I would say in science, that’s not true. In science, as you get older, whether you’re a man or a woman, you just gain more knowledge.

So it’s acknowledged that a competent scientist becomes more competent with age?
Exactly.
Some publicity for your book mentions that you write about science from a woman’s perspective. What has gender to do with how a scientist works?
You’ve hit on kind of a controversial subject. Women are perfectly capable of doing science the same as men. That’s very important. There’s no particular women’s way. The most convincing argument in that arena is that women, because of their upbringing, quite often are more cooperative. We tend to be able to work as a team; whereas men might want to get credit, women more easily cooperate together. This is based on our training. It has nothing to do with our ability, but with the way it’s implemented.

You’re in Rome for Cassini, which ended its 20-year journey to Saturn in 2017. What are you working on there?
We’re still doing research, focused on archiving and on legacy, getting everything we’ve learned packaged. I have overall responsibility for the moons of Saturn. My particular interest is in what they are made of. Like, if you were standing on the surface, what would you see? What is their shape, their composition, what is the physical nature of these moons?

Two of those moons seem to have astonished scientists because they are so unexpectedly Earth-like in geology and climate. Do they
enlarge the possibility that there are other worlds where some form of life might exist?
Yes. Before the mission we simply saw the moons as pinpoints of light. The Cassini mission turned them into real worlds. On the small moon Enceladus, for example, we discovered a plume of water, a geyser, basically. We discovered lakes on Titan, not of water but of methane and ammonia — the only place in the solar system other than Earth where there is a standing body of liquid.

Elon Musk recently sent a cherry-red Tesla into space blaring David Bowie and carrying a mannequin named Starman at the wheel. That caused scientists at Purdue University and elsewhere to worry that the car might not be “clean” enough, and might contaminate Mars with earthly bacteria. NASA deliberately crashed Cassini into Saturn when its mission ended so it wouldn’t roam uncontrolled and perhaps contaminate areas that should be kept pristine for further exploration. Is NASA concerned about contamination from Musk’s Tesla and other potential privately-owned space launches?
NASA has a very strict protocol for what’s known as planetary protection. Anytime you put anything into space, you have to do rigorous planetary protection analysis. Musk and SpaceX are not working for NASA. Theirs are not NASA activities. I think NASA was concerned about it and I think the possibility that it might affect Mars was small and unlikely. But they did not do the analysis that NASA would have done. I really can’t comment on all that. There’s another concern that many scientists have, and that is that putting a Tesla in space is an advertising event, whereas we would have liked to see a scientific payload instead, something that had instruments and could study the space environment.

You’ve worked on so many different projects. Do you have a favorite planet?
Good question. It’s a really close call between Titan and Pluto.
Is Titan a planet? I thought it was a moon of Saturn.
Well no, it’s not a planet. Neither is Pluto, technically, for that matter. The International Astronomical Union downgraded it to a dwarf planet in 2006. But we scientists don’t think in terms of what we should call [a celestial body]. We’re not concerned with that.

So why are Titan and Pluto your favorites?
Titan is the most Earthlike of celestial bodies. It has lakes. It has evidence there were glaciers in the past. It has running rivers, a thick atmosphere and a lot of landforms that look like Earth’s. It has clouds and seasons and very interesting objects. And Pluto is so much more than we expected. It is the first object in the solar system on which we found active geysers. We see evidence of something melted, and what looks like something flowing over it that we don’t understand yet. It looks like snow has occurred.

Similarities between Earth and other planets is one theme of your book. Can you talk about that?
A lot of phenomena we see on Earth are replicated on the planets. Take, for example, the greenhouse effect, the warming of Earth’s climate due to the influx of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That happened on Venus already. Venus had oceans in its history. Because of the unconstrained accumulation of carbons, a runaway greenhouse effect evaporated all the oceans. They all disappeared. It became a very hot world. So that is kind of an extreme case of what is happening on Earth right now.
Mars is also similar to Earth. It started out wetter. There were oceans in its early history. We think the origin of life on Mars may have been similar to origins of life on Earth. So the search for life on Mars is part of the search for life as it would have been on early Earth.

Are we any closer to discovering the origins of human life?
We really aren’t. We’re putting a lot of effort into that because it’s one of the greatest questions to be answered.

Your book has some nail-biting moments of tension and excitement, as various missions make fantastic discoveries. It’s a kind of Indiana Jones tale that takes place in space. You also write about the poetry of science. How would you explain all this to an ace science student who’s trying to decide on a career?
The book isn’t for scientists. It’s for the public to help explain space science, which is a heritage of the American people and belongs to all of them. I also really wanted to show younger people — those who are high school level and above — how much fun science is, and motivate them to do the kinds of things I do. It doesn’t have to be space science, but any of the other types, like engineering or helping to solve the climate problem.
Science is poetic in the sense that it’s about having a new idea, a great idea. When we get that flash of insight, it’s very similar to the insight flash you get in any artistic or creative endeavor. I’d say to be a great scientist, you really have to study everything, not just science. I think it was the Greek philosopher Terence who said, “Let nothing that is human be alien to you.” You have to just expand your mind to take ideas from every area you can take them. Of course, it’s 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. But at the moment you finally make that sublime discovery, you know it has all been worth it.

Any comment on President Trump’s idea for a space force, a branch of the military trained to fight wars in space?
The U.S. is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, which states (Article IV): “The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.”

With all scientists now know, do you believe there’s a possibility of intelligent life somewhere out there in space?
I just don’t know. We shouldn’t be the only ones, but we haven’t found any evidence of any life elsewhere, let alone intelligent life.